United States President Barack Obama told leaders from both parties in Congress that he does not feel he needs their approval for any action he decides to take regarding the current situation in Iraq. This is according to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell who spoke to reporters after a recent meeting with the President.
Iraq recently asked for United States air strikes to aid in their fight against advancing Sunni military insurgents. United States Vice President Joseph Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki recently met and discussed other options for the United States to consider to possibly aid the Iraqi military. According to a statement issued from the White House, the two men considered ways to reverse the advances being made by terrorists. Reportedly, the United States is considering a wide range of military options to use in responding to the advancing threat from the Muslim faction in Iraq.
Speaking after a meeting with the President, McConnell said the President indicated that he did not see the need for any Congressional authority to determine what steps he needed to take in dealing with the Middle East situation. Thus far, the White House has not had to directly answer that question about the necessity of Congressional authority for any military action.
Last year, President Obama did not seek any approval for attacks that were being considered against Syria. He did, however, later abandon the idea once it became apparent that he would not receive a majority of support from Congress.
Earlier in June, many politicians had issued statements of condemnation concerning the lack of congressional approval over the recent release of United States Army officer Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity. This release happened in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
White House officials said the President may be able to act unilaterally in Iraq. The reason for this is because the Iraqi government had requested air strikes from the United States government against Sunni militants after several key cities had been seized during the past week. The Muslim factions have also been reported to be gaining ground in Salahuddin and Diyala provinces after the Iraqi city of Mosul was overtaken last week.
One witness told the Associated Press last week that the nation’s largest refinery in Beiji now had flags representing the Al Qaeda movement hanging from its watch towers. He also said that there was a huge fire in one of the refinery’s tankers.
The military officer in charge of keeping the refinery protected, Colonel Ali al-Qureishi, told an Iraqi news agency in a telephone interview that the refinery was still in his control. This assertion was repeated by a key military leader in a news conference on Thursday.
The White House perspective is that rather than the current crisis being one that can be solved militarily, it must be solved politically. Vice-President Joe Biden, in an effort to seek a political solution contacted Iraqi Prime minister Nouri Maliki, a key Sunni rival and a Kurdish leader to advocate a new unified national government. John McCain, Republican Senator from Arizona, has taken things one step further and made a public call for Maliki to resign. Many senior Democrats have echoed that desire. Even the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the current administration would like to see the ousting of the leader of a country that it feels has escalated sectarian tensions and helped give credibility to the Sunni and Isis movement.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that very little has been done by the Iraqi government, and especially the prime minister, to form a more inclusive government. Carney said the inaction has been a major contribution to the crisis now taking place in the Middle East. According to Carney, the people of Iraq will have to decide the structure of the next government and who will lead them as prime minister. He said the United States will then make aggressive attempts to convince the new leadership of the importance and necessity that it not allow any type of sectarian form of governing of the nation.
For years, the Obama Administration has issued warnings and demands that the Iraqi government under Maliki, which has been dominated by the Shiite sect, be more inclusive. He further asked that they be less punitive against the Sunnis at the risk of causing any further alienation. For the most part, Maliki has been ignoring that advice for the last five years, according to United States and Arab officials. He has jailed key Sunni leaders and blocked other Shiite groups from taking part in the government and made sure that he or his supporters occupied key governmental and cabinet positions.
Without doubt, the White House is turning the heat up on its efforts to help reform the current Iraqi government. Also an assault on the biggest refinery in Iraq, just north of Baghdad in Baiji has been launched. Officially, the Obama administration has not yet responded to the request from the Iraqi government for air support. One security expert said that there are many options for Obama to consider including air strikes and the provision of extra training. It is believed that at a minimum, the United States will dispatch surveillance drones to help.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has gone on record to say that he cannot support the commitment of United States soldiers getting involved in what he called a civil war in Iraq. On Wednesday, defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke at a congressional hearing and said that the current Iraqi government never followed through on earlier commitments to unify their government with the Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis. Hundreds of individuals have perished since the beginning of this militant offensive. Many of those who perished were believed to be soldiers who were captured and then publicly shot. In addition, the United Nation estimates that close to half a million people have been displaced internally.
Speaking with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shia, said there is great danger coming that threatens any possibility of a unified government in Iraq. Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Karbalai has told reporters that the response should be the type of stance that citizens from all sects are willing to adopt. Hassan Rouhani, president of Iran said that his country would stop at nothing to defend Shia religious shrines in Iraq against any form of terrorism.
President Obama has indicated that some type of action will be taken by the United States regarding the situation in Iraq. As stated earlier, the President says he does not feel approval from Congress is needed.
By Rick Hope